How to prepare files for mixanalog

If you're not completely new to mixanalog you probably know that to use it, you have to somehow export your files from your DAW and upload them to our server. This blog was written to answer the most common questions about that step of the process.

Safety first

... upload them to our server?! But then they are out in the wild! Someone else could listen to them, my new song can leak before I even finish it! Oh no no...

Most of the team at mixanalog were (or still are) studio owners and musicians and we intimately understand your concerns. That's why we went an extra mile to make sure your data is safe, both for the sake of strict European data legislation and our own ethical standards. You can read about all the safety measures that we put in place HERE.

OK, let's go!

The two main things that you have to know before you make an export are:

  1. Do you want to apply any effects before analogue processing?
  2. Do you want the file to be aligned to the project after export on mixanalog or will you align it by hand?

FX or no FX?

Tasks like corrective EQ notching or de-essing with lookahead are accomplished much better in the digital domain, so why not do it before applying that analogue spice? It will help the analogue box produce even more pleasant harmonic content and make compressors react more naturally. "Best of both worlds" at it's finest!

notching eq frequencies for mixanalog files
Preparing files by notching out problem frequencies | Photographer: sayhitobel | Source: Unsplash

But if your recorded source is perfectly ok in that department, you might want to leave it as unspoiled as possible for the analogue processing. No FX, no volume adjustment, as pure as possible.

DAWs usually offer a couple of different ways to export audio for situations like this. I've tried to find instructional videos or other forms of information on both cases for a couple of most-used DAWs below. In a nutshell, "Consolidate" and the like in most cases mean "export before fader with no FX" and "Render/Export/Commit" usually means "export with FX and fader levels". But every DAW is a world of its own, so if unsure, look for tutorials or remarks in the user manual and help documents.

Everything or just the chorus?

For the second question - in most cases, that depends on the contents of the track. If it's a single track from a group of many of the same source (only snare top mic for example) or an instrument bus output, it makes sense to export it from the beginning of the project until the end. That will enable you to later import it back into the project at the start of the timeline and have it aligned and ready to go.

If you plan to process independent single tracks like vocals or samples/single shots, you can save a lot of time at upload, tweaking and bouncing by only exporting the time range that contains useful audio. Aligning it back to the original source in the project should only take less than a minute of time and some zooming in and out, which is well worth it.

Level

The majority or our fleet is connected to AD/DA converters (the lovely BURL Mothership) that are referenced to +18dBu for 0dBFS. This level fits nicely to the +4dBu level reference of most of the pro audio gear, as somewhere between -18B and-14dB is a fairly average RMS level of an un-mastered mix.

In majority of cases that means exporting the raw track with no level gain or fader attenuation will be perfectly fine to send to the analog unit, and if you find it a few dB too hot or to quiet, the IO unit at mixanalog offers +/- 12dB of level adjustment before going out of the DA and after AD conversion.

Sample rate

The internal sample rate of the whole mixanalog system is 192kHz. For the uploads that aren't in 192kHz, we use the SoX library for format and sample rate conversion on highest quality settings. It has one of the best performances amongst the data available HERE (SoX VHQ linear phase), but if you want to have complete control over the SRC, I would advise uploading your files at 192kHz.

Now, let's look at how to do the exports in a couple of the most common DAWs:

Pro Tools

Raw files (no FX)

Select the clips on the track that you want to process. If you are going to align them by hand, you can press Option+Shift+3 (Mac) or Alt+Shift+3 (Win) right away. But if you want to simply drop the processed audio clip into the project at the start of the timeline and have them aligned, adjust the left time selection marker to the start of the project and then hit the mentioned shortcut.

The consolidated clip will be put into your *project name*/Audio Files folder by default, and at least in my experience, the easiest way to find it is to sort the files in the folder by creation date. Alternatively, you can rename the created clip inside PT and find it by it's name in explorer/finder.

Processed files

If you want to do some processing on the audio before going to mixanalog (de-essing or surgical/corrective EQ for instance), you can use the Commit... functionality on single tracks or an aux/bus track. This will produce a file with the processing applied before the fader (if so selected). Alternatively, you can simply solo the track, bypass the master bus inserts and render the project output.

Logic Pro X

The video below explains how to export the raw or processed track from Logic. For a single track, use the "Export->1 Track as Audio file..." instead of "All Tracks ..." and the rest is pretty much the same. Don't forget to set the "Bypass Effect Plugins" checkbox appropriately to export either the processed or raw version of the track:

REAPER

Depending on what you want to process, you can either use the "File->Render..." or the "File->Consolidate/Export tracks..." dialogue. The first renders the output of either the master channel or the selected track with FX and volume fader setting and the second renders only the raw audio to a new file.

Cubase

This rather lenghty video explains how to get the raw tracks from Cubase:

If you want to do some pre-processing, the Render In Place is the way to go:

Ableton

The video below shows the process of exporting stems for usage outside your set, which is currently the case with mixanalog. Note that to get the optimal volume, you have to pay attention to your fader level, as the renderer exports the tracks with the fader volume applied:

StudioOne

The video below explains the stem/track export workflow in StudioOne. Some additional info can be found HERE:

There and back again ("A Hobbit's Tale")

When you have your source file ready, go to mixanalog and upload it either as the first step of the new session reservation wizard or through the uploader in the Files tab.

When you've finished the knob-twiddling and are happy with what you hear, hit that bounce button (make sure you have enough session time left for the bounce to complete!). A dialogue will pop up, asking you about the sample rate.

If you trust SoX, select your project's sample rate and the downloaded file will be ready to be simply dropped back into your DAW. If you prefer some other method of sample rate conversion and would like to have complete control over that, select 192kHz for bounce settings as this is our internal sample rate for interfacing with the hardware and then convert the downloaded file with your own SRC of choice.

*stare at the progress bar for the length of the song...*

Your file is ready to be downloaded and made into beautiful music! I hope you like what you hear and can't wait to see you again at mixanalog.com!

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